Colm Kinsella talks to Munster’s exciting young winger Alex Wootton.
NOT a bad way to announce your return to full fitness ahead of crucial British and Irish Cup and Ulster Bank All-Ireland League fixtures.
Garryowen’s Munster Academy winger Alex Wootton bagged a hat-trick of tries for the ‘light blues’ at the weekend as Conan Doyle side’s leapfrogged Ballymena into second place in the AIL Division 1B table.
A product of Northampton Saints academy, 20-year-old Wootton went to England’s renowned rugby nursery Sedbergh School, once attended by former England captain Will Carling and Gloucester winger James Simpson-Daniel.
Wootton made his Munster A debut in December of last year against Plymouth Albion in the British and Irish Cup at Waterford RSC.
The winger also featured for the Irish U-20s side which finished in a best ever fourth place at last summer’s IRB Junior World Championship in New Zealand.
Wootton said he hoped the hat-trick of tries would kick-start his season which was hampered by injury early on.
Wootton said: “They were my first tries of the season. I had an injury over the summer, did my medial ligament and this is me getting back in the swing of things and hoping to push on.
“This is my first time to score a hat-trick in about a year. The last time was when I was playing at Northampton at U-20 level at Franklins Gardens. I am happy to get the tries and happy for the boys to get the win.
“Division 1B of the AIL is a higher level, of course. I am over-the-moon with the performance and the hat-trick finishes it off.
“I think the last try was a bit sneaky. I was kneeling down on the side of the pitch and the boys wanted to give me a hat-trick. I was just on the end of the move.
“It is an important win for Garryowen, but even more so an important performance. We have been looking for that performance all year. We have been looking to push on for 80 minutes. Unfortunately, at the end we did let in a couple of tries, but I felt it was a top performance.”
Sporting all-rounder Wootton tried his hand at several sports before settling on rugby.
Wootton explained: “I am from Macclesfield. My mum is from Manchester and my dad was born in Co Down. I was involved in swimming, athletics, rugby and football when I was growing up. It is about playing what you can when you are younger. Obviously, picking a sport was hard for me. I did love football. I went to a rugby school, Sedbergh, a boarding school, which is just south of the border from Scotland where my rugby took off. I am very fortunate to be where I am today.
“I started off with Sale Sharks in elite player development. Then I went to Wasps. As I left school, I played a couple of games with Northampton. They offered me a contract and I took that along with another friend from school. I was there for a year and an opportunity for me to play with Munster arrived. I felt more a part of the team here.
“I had my debut for Munster A last year and felt I played quite well. A couple of senior lads came back from injury and I didn’t get an opportunity to stay on with the team. My ambition is to push on and make my way through the ranks.
“My ‘A’ debut was against Plymouth in Waterford. It is a nice pitch down there. It was a great night, a great performance by the lads and it pushed us through to the semi-finals of the B&I Cup.”
Qualified to play for Ireland, Wootton was approached about the prospect of playing for the country at U-20 level through former head coach Mike Ruddock.
“My father’s side of the family is Irish. I got in contact with Mike Ruddock and I came over for Irish U-20s trials. That was the year the team played the Junior World Championships in France, two years ago.
“I got in a reserve squad for that and got a call-up to go out. I spoke to Peter Malone and Greig Oliver while I was out there in France. I was going to go to a Championship team in England. Obviously, when the opportunity came to play for Munster - with the history behind the club - I was delighted to take it.
“Everyone knows that Irish hospitality is the best around. Training itself is obviously hard. Munster are renowned for its hard work. Even at Garryowen the training is tough, especially this year, a lot of things have been put in place after the team was relegated at the end of last season. Our mentality is to go straight back up and hopefully we can achieve that if we keep putting in performances like we did today.
“The standard of is high in the All-Ireland League. For the Munster lads and the Academy lads, it is the highest standard we can play at. When we play with the club, we try our hardest every game.
“I am enjoying it with the Munster Academy. I have been injured, haven’t featured that much for Munster A this season. That is something I would like to change coming up to Christmas and over the rest of the season.”
Wootton is also currently studying Sports Psychology at Limerick Senior College.
“That runs until Christmas. I am thoroughly enjoying it. It is something I can relate to, both on and off the pitch. It helps me in that aspect.”